Sunday, December 25, 2011


Fried carp with Slovakian Style Potato Salad. 
A fixture on the Slovak holiday table.

 Happy Holidays to everyone. Its that time of year again in our house where we serve up the Slovakian Christmas feast. Though feast is a stretch for me, actually its more like a fast. Please allow me to apologize in advance to all Slovakian and Slovakian culinary sympathizers in advance for the following digressions. IT IS ALL IN FUN. So please if you are Slovakian and easily offended please stop reading now.

I have to be honest when it comes to food and I will not beat around the bush. Slovakian food is AWFUL. It is the antithesis of the gourmet and it is my culinary adversary.   All of it sucks. I could say one redeemable dish is Goulash but that is actually Hungarian. I just don't get it. First off what is up with the frickin potato salad and breaded fried cutlets? Good god how are the Slovaks not sick of this? For those that do not know; you can go to ANY and EVERY Slovakian party and they serve breaded pork or chicken cutlets with Slovakian style potato salad. I mean every party. Wedding-breaded cutlets and potato salad, birthday- breaded cutlets and potato salad, get together- breaded cutlets and potato salad. It is just insanity. There have been times when we have gone to parties several times in a couple of weeks and at all of them they are serving breaded cutlets and potato salad. I just wont eat. Breaded cutlets and potato salad, breaded cutlets and potato salad, breaded cutlets and potato salad, breaded cutlets and potato salad. I swear if I never have another breaded cutlet and potato salad it will be too soon.

Then we come to the Holidays. Here we get a little change up. What do we have on the holidays? Breaded fried carp. Fricken yum. Guess what the accompaniment is? Yep, you guessed it, potato salad. That, strictly, is what the meal is on Christmas eve. WTF. But wait, guess what we have on New Year? The very same meal of fried carp and potato salad. Its unbelievable, I understand traditions and the willingness to sometimes suffer them, but I don't know how these traditions started and I just cant understand.  I wish people would break from them.

Lets break down the full Christmas (and New Year) meal.  I will spare everyone the recipes so they do not have to suffer the same as I. But if anyone wants these recipes I will be happy to share them.

First there is Kapustnica. This is sauerkraut and kielbasa soup. Basically you can think sauerkraut and kielbasa with a whole bunch of water poured on top. With some added dried mushrooms that are reminiscent of dirty, hard, old wool socks that your dad has been wearing for a week without laundering. It is as though the broth was made by pouring the water through these dirty socks before adding it to the soup. Then you add some sour cream, it separates and curdles. The flavors of sour cream, sauerkraut and dried foot mushrooms combined are indescribable. Well I can describe them but I wont. 

I will say that this one isn't that hard to choke down if you add some herbs and spices though most Slovakian cooks do not.

Then there is Oplatky:  a "treat" that is served before and during the meal. Basically this is a large bland flavorless communion wafer. That is to say that a communion wafer is absolutely delicious in comparison. Drizzled with honey it is somewhat bearable. 

Then we come to the main coarse of fried carp. If you like the taste of fish poop you will love fried carp. I, however avoid fish poop whenever possible. That is why we replaced the carp with tilapia in our house. Yes tilapia is still a kind of carp but it is far less poopish.

 Slovakian potato salad is a mixture of potatoes, peas, carrots, eggs, mayonnaise and pickles with pickle juice added. The potato salad ends up being a thick, clumpy mass and the addition of eggs, pickle juice and mayonnaise marries to make a certain flavor reminiscent of vomit.

For desert (Oh the Joy) we have bobalky. These are put together by first making flavorless bread balls that you allow to get stale. (They are very similar to oyster crackers.) Then they are placed in boiling water until soggy, after which they are covered in poppy seeds and drizzled with honey.
They are sweet soggy bread balls. Blech!

So many people in Slovakia like to drink, A LOT. This is no doubt because of the food. You only have to think about your dinner there and it is enough to make you start drinking before lunch. In Slovakia you will see that most of the dogs there are limping, this is because people come home from work, take one look at their dinner and then they kick the dog.

Sorry again to all of the Slovakian cooks and diners out there,  but I really do have to be honest. I love all of our Slovak friends and I only hope that my critazizems will help. please, please, PLEASE step away from the fried cutlets and potato salad! There is a world of foods out there to explore.

Tradition sucks, smash it where it stands.

Merry Christmas to all, I hope all of your wishes come true and may you enjoy your Christmas feast!!!! difficult as that may be.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Frog Legs Calabrian Style

Sauteed frogs legs in a light country style tomato sauce with green beans. This is authentic Italian peasant fare. Brothy and aromatic, rich with garlic and fresh basil. Just open up a bottle of wine and break some bread and fruit cause this one will take you back to the old days in the old country.

We get frogs legs at the Chinese grocery store. They have them live. When you order them they kill and clean them for you so they are very fresh. There are good frozen frogs legs available also at Asian supermarkets. 

If you can get a hold of some frogs legs this is a very easy dish to make as most marinara pasta sauces are.

INGREDIENTS:for 4-6 servings
  • 2 lbs frogs legs
  • 1 lb green beans cleaned and picked and cut to half inch pieces
  • 8 cloves of garlic minced
  • 3 stalks of scallions chopped
  • 1 stalk celery chopped fine
  • 6 fresh tomatoes chopped or 1 28ox can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 bayleaf
  •  1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  •  3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • flour for dredging the frogs legs. 
  • 1 lb spaghetti cooked aldente.
  • chopped fresh flat leaf parsley for garnish.

 PROCEDURE: First pat the frogs legs dry and then sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper. put them into a plate full of flour and dredge them slightly.  Take a sauce pan large enough for the ingredients and get it hot over medium heat. Add a little oil and drop the frog legs in. Give them a a turn and then remove them and set them aside on a plate. Add the butter green beans garlic, celery, scallions, herbs and spices.  Let this brown a little and then add the wine. Cook off the alcohol a little and then add the tomatoes. Simmer this sauce until the tomatoes are cooked, about a half hour. Then return the frogs legs to the sauce and cook for another 25 mins. The sauce should be then and on the broth like side. Add water as needed and adjust salt if necessary.

Carefully remove the frogs legs to a plate and put the cooked spaghetti into the sauce and cook briefly. Toss a little then plate. Put the frogs legs on top and drizzle on more sauce.

Frog legs are delicious and I don't think they taste like chicken. I like them a lot and they are a rare treat but I just hate thinking about all of those poor frogs walking around on crutches.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Zemiakove Placky 
(Slovakian/Czech Style Potato Pancakes)

I dont know about anybody else but I love potato pancakes. They are a pretty regular vegetarian meal  around our house. They are also great as a snack, real easy to throw together and they are very satisfying. Potato pancakes are made all different ways. From the mashed potato cakes in the US usually made from leftover mashed potatoes mixed with eggs and flour, fried and served with breakfast to the crispy Jewish style Latkes that are my favorite. I just love the crispy texture that goes together so well with the onions and hint of garlic. Served alongside of some sour cream and apple sauce they are just simple perfection.

Pictured above is the Slovakian version. It is more of a pancake then the Jewish Latke but they are very good. Traditionally in Slovakia these are served with a glass of buttermilk or kefir. It is one of those things my wife has to have. If we are out of butter milk and or kefir I have to run out and get some. It just has to be potato pancakes with a glass of butter milk. HAS to be. It reminds her of the old country. 

INGREDIENTS: for 10 to 12 placky.
  • 3-4 large potatoes 
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic minced fine
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon marjorum
  • salt and pepper
 With a box grater over a mixing bowl. grate the potatoes, but not on the big grater side on the other side. The side with the tiny wholes. The idea is to get it to grate into a coarse mush. Now grate in the onion fine too. Put in the minced garlic, salt, pepper and marjoram and mix well. Then add the egg. Mix again while you add the flour a little at a time. The flour should begin to make the egg and the juice form the potatoes begin to get thick. You don't want it too thick, just enough flour so stuff binds.

Now mix again until the batter is the consistency of thin pancake batter. You dont want them thick like regular pancakes but you some want them as thin as crepes either. Add either milk or flour until you reach a good consistency.

Get a large enough heavy fry pan on a medium high burner good and hot. Oil the bottom of the pan liberally. (remember this rule "hot pan, cold oil, food wont stick") Immediately spoon in the batter and spread it out on the thin side with the back of the soon. Saute until the batter is dry on the top and then flip. Repeat adding a little oil after each batch until all of the batter is used up.  Stack them up on a plate and cover them with a clean towel to keep them warm until you are ready to serve.

To serve garnish with some tomatoes wedges or carrot sticks. If you want to be completely authentic have them with a glass of buttermilk or even a glass of sour raw milk.

(Jewish Style Potato Pancakes)

Slovakian style pancakes are good but I really love the Jewish version called latkes. They are almost the same ingredients wise as the Slovakian version but the texture and flavors are different. Latkes are more crispy like hash browns where the  Zemiakove Placky is soft like a pancake.

INGREDIENTS: For 8-10 Latkes
  • 3-4 large potatoes
  • 1large onion
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic minced fine
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • salt and peppper
  • 1 teaspoons fresh chopped or dried dill (optional)

With this version set the box grater in a mixing bowl and use the side with the large grater holes. You want the largest grating you can get. Grate all of the potato and the onion coarsely. Then add the other ingredients except the flour then mix well. As the juice starts to come out of the grated potatoes add the flour gradually while mixing using the same procedure as above.

Get a big enough frying pan hot over medium high heat. Add a half inch of cooking oil to the pan and get it good and hot, not smoking hot but hot, about 350 degrees. Now spoon in the coarse batter and press with the back of the spoon. Spread it out a little bit. They should be about 1/4 of an inch thick.

Fry until crisp and brown on both sides. I like my latkes crisp and dark so I do them over high heat real fast. If you want yours lighter just turn the heat down around medium and take a little longer to fry them.

Serve them up with some applesauce and sour cream.

Very easy to do and they are awesome. Give them a try!!!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Pork Cutlets Breaded With Pretzels. 
Topped With a Dijon Mustard Gravy.

Lets take a step back to the realm of an everyday cook. This is a quick and easy way to add a different snap to cutlets. Everyone will love it. Use a food processor or the like to break up pretzels into a breading or you can put them into a plastic bag and hit them with something. 

INGREDIENTS: for 4 cutlets

  • 4 pork cutlets (sure can use chicken) 
  • 3 cups crushed pretzels
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk or water
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • Salt and Pepper
Lay the cutlets out on a cutting board and sprinkle them on both sides with salt pepper and celery seed. Then hammer them out to the desired thickness with a meat hammer. Set out three plates or bowls big enough to fit the cutlets. Dip them into the flour and coat. Next dip them into the egg, then into the pretzels. Stack them on a plate and set aside.

  • 1 cup chicken stock or bullion
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill or dill seed
  • Salt and Pepper
Place a sauce pan over medium heat and melt the butter and then blend in the flour. Add more butter or flour as necessary to make a roux.  Pour in the stock and whisk to blend in the flour. Add in all of the other ingredients except the sour cream. Whisk together and allow to simmer for 20 mins. while stirring occasionally.Bring it to the desired thickness. You can keep a few tablespoons of roux on the side to add if you need to make it thicker, or you can use a cheat of flour and water mixed to the thickness of pancake batter. Add and whisk in either this or more stock to adjust the thickness. When adding mixed flour and water apply the same sour cream procedure as below. If you add flour directly to the simmering gravy it will make balls of flour that cook fast and make crappy little balls that will never break up.

After it has simmered remove from heat and transfer a ladle full of gravy to a bowl or container and Add the sour cream to the container as well, whisk until well blended. Then add the premixed mixture back to the pot and mix well. Return to the heat and stir till well blended. The reason we do the above procedure is because if you add the cream right to the pot that is simmering the sour cream will separate and curdle. Looks awful.

While the gravy is simmering get a saute pan hot over medium high heat and pour in about 3/4 inch coking oil. Bring the oil to temp and carefully place the cutlets in and fry them on both sides until browned and cooked through.

Quick and easy and the kids will love it!

Thursday, December 8, 2011



Some may be shocked at the thought of this dish or others like it but I find it delicious. Beef tongue can be made a multitude of way and when prepared properly it is tender lean and delicious. Its really good in tacos and cured, pepper crusted and sliced thin it makes a most wonderful Jewish style sandwich.

The way it is served above is Slovakian style. We do this fairly often with beef tongue as well as pork tongue but not usually smoked. Smoked meats are pretty common in Slovakia and across Europe because it is a means of preservation. Done in the past out of necessity now mostly because it is just so damn tasty. 

Get a hold of a cow tongue. Stretch it out on the cutting board and cut off the excess skin form the bottom. You can make this dish without smoking the tongue and it is just as good though it will lack the smoked flavor. If you are not going to smoke it start a large enough stock pot to fit the tongue with salted boiling water. Drop in the tongue and let it boil until the skin pulls away from the muscle. Then remove it from the pot and run it under cold water. The skin should pull away and peel off. If not return it to the water until the skin pulls away. Set the peeled tongue aside. 

If you decide to smoke it start the smoker going as low in temp as possible and smoke it with a mild wood like apple or cherry for about two or three hours. Just enough to infuse some smoke flavor. Over smoked will make the flavor to strong for the delicate paprikash sauce.  

After smoking set it out on a cutting board.  With a sharp filet or boning knife peel the skin from the muscle. This is done by putting the knife just under the skin. After a small piece of skin has been lifted grab it with a kitchen towel so it does not slip from the fingers. Move the knife along while pulling off the skin. Much like you would skinning a side of salmon.  

Slice the tongue into half inch slice and set them aside. 

  • Beef or pork tongue sliced. 
  •  1 large onion minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed
  • 3 tablespoon paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons flour and butter roux
  • A little vegetable oil

Get a large enough heavy pot hot over medium high heat. Pour in a little vegetable oil to cover the bottom. Then drop in the bay leaf and the caraway seeds. When the seeds start to crackle a little drop in the onions and garlic and stir. When they start to sweat and maybe turn a little brown put in the paprika and toss for a 30 seconds. Then pour in the beef stock and other ingredients except for the sour cream and the roux.

Turn down to low and cover, simmer until the beef tongue is completely tender. About two hours. Take out a piece intermittently to check.

When the beef tongue is tender remove from the heat. Gradually add the sour cream while stirring constantly. Then add the roux and stir well. Return the pot to the burner and simmer uncovered until the sauce becomes thick. 

Serve with rice, elbow pasta or Hungarian dumplings like above. Garnish with a little sprinkle of paprika. 

                                              Shown here is pork tongue that is not smoked.

Good stuff. 

To quote a friend: "Do you taste this dish, or does it taste you".

Monday, December 5, 2011


Sun Dried Tomato and Cheese Polenta topped with a Bolognese sauce
Served with a Side of Broccoli rabe in oil and garlic.

Since we are on the subject of Italian food and preparations that will make your arms tired lets talk about polenta. Polenta is made all around the world but the Italian version is most widely known. Around the turn of the century there was a problem with polenta. People were eating all of the time because the corn meal was readily available and cheap. In these improvised times many people took to eating only polenta. The problem is that the vitamins in the corn meal was locked inside and no manner of cooking could make them digestible. Therefore people were suffering from severe vitamin deficiencies. This led to many people becoming mentally unstable as their brain was not getting the vitamins it needs. There is an old Italian saying; "pazzo dalla polenta" translates to "crazy from the polenta.

Polenta does not take much skill but it does take time cause much like risotto you have to stir it constantly.

Any coarse ground yellow corn meal will work for this recipe but it is best to use the Italian variety. Instant is OK if you can find it and it goes much quicker but the real stuff works much better. 

INGREDIENTS: For 6-8 servings. 
  • 2 cups polenta (or coarse ground yellow corn meal.)
  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomato chopped (optional) 
  • 4 cups chicken, veal or pork stock. 
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese.   
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • Vegetable oil for frying
Put a large enough stock pot on a burner set to high. Pour in the stock, sun dried tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Then pour in the polenta meal. While stirring constantly bring it to a boil and then turn the burner down to low. 
Simmer on low while stirring constantly. If it gets to thick too fast add some water. If it is too thin add some more corn meal. Keep stirring as it thickens and the starches release. after about 20 to 30 mins. It will be VERY thick. So thick that it is said a wooden spoon will stand up in it. This is hard to do if your pot is shallow though. Stir in the Parmesan cheese now.

Oil an 8" x 12" casserole or the like and then turn out the thickened polenta into it. Smooth out the top and make sure there are no air bubbles or pockets in the polenta cake. Set this to cool on the counter and then cover with palstic wrap and put it into the fridge to cool and set. 

After it has completely set carefully turn the casserole over onto a cutting board and let the polenta drop out. 

Slice it into 1/2"-3/4" thick pieces and set them aside. 

Get a fry pan hot over medium high heat and add about 3/4" deep of oil. Then carefully drop in the polenta pieces. Fry until golden brown then flip and brown on the other side. Place the fried pieces on a paper towel to drain. 

To serve, plate them and top them with your favorite sauce. Grandma Capozzoli's tomato gravy would be awesome but just a quick tomato and basil sauce would do the trick. 

Goes great with sauteed spinach or other greens or just a simple salad and fresh fruit. Very authentic old world Italian!

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Really nice warming dish that goes very well with braised breast of veal featured on the previous page. It requires some attention but it is not hard to do. It is short grain rice cooked in stock until thick and creamy. Another European peasant dish that was born out of necessity. Once the food of the poor now elevated to the gourmet.

INGREDIENTS: for 6 servings
  • 1-1/2 cups arborio rice 
  • Approximately 3-4 cups veal or chicken stock 
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup of dried wild porcini mushrooms. (reconstituted and chopped)  or fresh.
  • 1 cup locatelli or pecorino romano cheese (grated)
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg grated
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • fresh cracked black pepper ground and sea salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley. 
PROCEDURE: Put a large enough thick stock pot on the stove set to med high. Let the pot get hot and then add the butter, onions and garlic. Let these brown just slightly then add the rice. Toss and let the rice toast a little until the grains go opaque white.

Then add the nutmeg, salt and pepper.Stir a little then add the white wine and chopped mushrooms. After the alcohol cooks off add a cup of stock. Bring to a boil then turn the heat on the lower side. It should be simmering. Stir constantly until all fo the stock is absorbed. Then add another cup of stock and stir constantly until that is absorbed. Keep repeating this process until all of the stock is used up or you have reached the desired tenderness and consistency. It will take about 25-35 mins.

Add the cheese and remaining ingredients stir. If before serving it gets too thick just add some milk or water and stir again. Be careful reheating it may stick, always keep stiring.

Plate it and garnish with some grated cheese and some chopped fresh parsley. 

Stiring is the key in making good risotto. Stir constantly, your arm may get tired but just look at it as exercise.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


 A double header today;`braised breast of veal with herbs garlic and vegetables. Served along side a wild mushroom risotto. It is authentic hearty Northern Italian winter fare that will warm you right up!

The veal is pretty easy to make and goes very well with risotto (on next page) but the risotto requires some attention. So start the veal in the oven then move onto preparing the risotto and any salad that is going with your meal.

Braised Breast of Veal


  • Breast of Veal (For 4 or 6 servings look for a three to four rib breast of veal. Look for the one that has the thickest layer of meat.)
  • 2 large carrots diced
  • 1 medium onion wedged
  • 3 large potatoes cubed
  • 1/2 cup of peas
  • 1 head of garlic chopped coarse
  • cup of white wine
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil.
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed.
  • 1 six inch branch of fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • sea salt or kosher salt
  •    water for stock
 For this dish you need a dutch oven or a heavy stock pot that has an oven safe lid.

 PROCEDURE: Preheat the oven to 375. Put a dutch oven or a large thick stock pot on the stove top over medium high heat. Salt the breast of veal with sea salt or kosher salt.  Throw a tablespoon of veg oil into the heated pot. Then drop in the breast of veal. Sear on both sides. Add more oil if needed then add the vegetables and garlic.Stir then a bit but let them brown and get a little roasty toasty.

Then put in the spices and the rosemary. Stir a few more times then add the wine to deglaze. Finish with the breast meat side up. Pour in water till comes up half way the side of the breast. Salt to taste and bring to a boil. Cover with lid and put it in the oven.  Depending on the size breast it will take on average 2 hours. But cook it till the meat is pulling away from the bones like above.

Plate and then arrange the vegetables  garnish with some fresh chopped parsley and a sprig of rosemary.

I am moving the risotto to its own page.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Almost no recipe is used as much in my kitchen. It is a Capozzoli staple. A lot of Italian Americans (Im only part Italian American) call rich deep bone stock type tomato sauce 'gravy' not 'sauce'. This has much to do with the bones meat and sausage that is used to make it. Tomato 'sauce' is either vegetarian or a marinara sauce made with fish or some other seafood. We will go into those tomato sauces in the pages to come.

INGREDIENTS: For 6-8 servings with some left overs depending on appetites and dish being served. 

  • 1- 28oz can of tomato puree
  • 1-28oz can of crushed tomato
  • 1-12oz can of tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1lb or more bones pork, beef, lamb or any combination.
  • 1 head of garlic minced
  • 1 stalk of celery chopped fine
  • 4 tablespoons of dried oregano
  • 4 tablespoons of dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon of celery seed
  • 2 large bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon of nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper seed 
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup grated locatelli or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Kosher salt and crushed black pepper to taste
  • Rope of Italian sausage and or meat balls (Optional) 
  • little bit of vegetable oil
  • water to fill cans
PROCEDURE: Put a large enough heavy stock pot on a medium high burner. Let it get hot.Then add a little vegetable oil. Put the bones in then the chopped garlic, celery and all of the dried herbs and spices stir constantly and don't let the garlic get too dark. Remove it from the burner if it gets to hot. Once the garlic is golden light brown add the wine and cook of some of the alcohol off. Now add the cans of tomato puree, crushed tomato and the paste and stir.

 Fill each of those cans with water once and add it to the sauce. Stir until blended. Now add the olive oil and grated cheese. Stir once again and bring to a low boil. Then turn to low and cover with a lid. Let this simmer for two hours.

If using meat balls and or sausage. Roast them in the oven at 400 degrees. Ideally browned on the outside but still a little under done on the inside. Don't put them in the simmering sauce until the last half hour of the cook. Otherwise they will overcook.

Remove the bones before serving or ladle around them.

Mama Mia, that's a spicy a meatball! Meatball recipe to come......

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


A lot of American cooks, even the ones in Italian restaurants don't know real manicotti. Go to almost any Italian restaurant in this country and you will be served pasta tubes stuffed with ricotta cheese. This is not real manicotti, the real deal is a savory crepe made with semolina flour. But like so many European dishes they are brought to America only to be changed so that they are easier to prepare. Just another reason to do things yourself.

Making real manicotti is not difficult and is especially easy if you use a nonstick pan. I am for the most part anti-nonstick but there are some applications where it is useful, making crepes is one of them. We have an iron crepe pan and it works great however it is too small for making manicotti the size that I want. I like them on the larger side. If you have a crepe pan and you are OK with smaller manicotti then use that. If not use nonstick and feel no guilt for it. 

When I make manicotti I make homemade paneer cheese.  Paneer cheese is an Indian recipe but it is basically whole milk ricotta in contrast to the ricotta cheese we get in this country which is made from whey. Paneer is very easy to make and it is firm, holds together well and lends a homemade authentic taste to this dish but they will still be very good if you use store bought ricotta cheese.


  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • juice from one lemmon
  • 1 egg
  • chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
PROCEDURE: Bring the milk to a slight boil in a large pot and then turn it on low. Add the lemon juice and stir. The milk will curdle. If it does not curdle then add more lemon juice till it does. Line a cullender with some cheese cloth and place it over a large pot. Slowly pour the curdled milk into the cullender to strain out the curds from the whey. Once it is all strained pour the curds into a mixing bowl and let it cool. Once it is completely cool add the egg, chopped parsley, salt and pepper and mix.
Set this mixture aside and then make the crepes.

*NOTE: You will be left with quite a bit of whey after you remove the curds. You dont have to throw this away. It makes for a very healthy beverage. You can make it cold and drink it as is or you can add some sugar to sweeten it. If you add some choclate syrup and mix it well you will have homemade YooHoo. I love YooHoo.


INGREDIENTS: For 8-10 crepes
  • 2 cup semolina flour
  • 1/2 cup unbleached flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 2-1/2 cup milk (approx.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
PROCEDURE: In a large enough mixing bowl add the eggs, milk, oil and salt. Using a whisk to mix as you add the dry ingredients gradually be sure to break up any lumps. After all of the ingredients have been added continue mixing well.  The final consistency should be thin like that of latex house paint, not thick like pancake batter. Set the batter aside for 1 hour. This gives the semolina flour time to reconstitute.

To make the crepes set the bowl of batter near the stove with a ladle. Also set out another small bowl with a small amount of oil in it. Take a folded up paper towel and place it into the small bowl of oil. This is what you will use to grease the pan before and after making each crepe.  Put the pan on a burner over medium heat and let it get good and hot. Once hot take the oiled paper towel and wipe the entire surface of the hot pan. Then return it to the burner for a moment. 

No here is the trick, Take the pan off the burner in one hand and take a ladle full of batter in the other. Starting from the center gradually add the batter to the pan while turning and leaning the pan to spread the batter, continue until the entire surface of the pan is covered with a thin layer of batter. Return the ladle and any excess batter to the bowl. 

Once the top of the crepe looks dry and the edges are beginning to pull away from the pan the crepe is done. Carefully slide the tip of a butter knife under the edge of the crepe and lift, then use your finger to lift it out of the pan and place it on a nearby plate to cool. Wipe the pan with the paper towel of oil again and make another crepe. Stack the crepes up and repeat until all of the batter is used up.

Now give a quick clean up and set up to stuff the crepes. Place your stack of crepes near the bowl of ricotta filling. 

Set out one of the crepes and place a few tablespoons of the ricotta filling just off center.
Then roll the crepe over top of the filling.

Cut off the excess crepe from either side.
In a large enough casserole dish pour your tomato sauce to completely cover the bottom. Then carefully place the manicotti in side by side after you roll each one.

After they are placed into the casserole and the dish is filled ladle sauce onto the top. Then cover the top with a mixture of grated Parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Place into an preheated 350 degrees oven and bake until the cheese is completely melted on top and beginning to brown and blister.

Finally, carefully place a spatula under one manicotti at a time and slide them off onto a plate. Ladle  some sauce on top, garnish with some fresh chopped flat leaf parsley and serve,

I will be posting my world famous authentic Italian tomato gravy recipe tomorrow so please check back. I guaranty you will love this sauce.

Yep, that is the real manicotti.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Spaghetti and crabs is one of those dishes you want to bury your face in, or at least it is for me. I feel sorry for anyone that can not eat shellfish. This dish is one of my favorites, one I find very hard to leave from the table that it is being served on. It is an easy dish to make though it is kinda pricey but soooo worth it. Its good for special occasions, a rare treat if you will.

In December and January you can sometimes find the big blue claw crabs for some reason.

INGREDIENTS: For four large servings.
  • 1 or 2 large blue claw crabs per person
  • 1 can of jumbo lump crab meat (optional)
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes or some other fresh tomato chopped
  • 1 large head of garlic minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Hand full fresh chopped basil or 2 tablespoons of dry basil
  • Hand full fresh chopped oregano or 2 tablespoons of dry oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 20-30 needles of fresh rosemary or a tablespoon of dry rosemary 
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 2 stalks scallions
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Water for Stock
  • Little bit of vegetable oil
PROCEDURE: Put two large pots on the stove over medium heat. In one put about a half gallon of salted water.  Then put the crabs in and let them cook until they turn red. Remove the crabs and put them into a cullender to drain. Throw a stalk of celery into the crab stock and let in reduce by half over medium heat.

In the other pot put a little bit of vegetable oil, then put in the chopped garlic and chopped celery stalk and peas, let this lightly brown and remove from the heat so it does not get too dark. Then put in the bay leaves, rosemary, Old Bay, nutmeg, black pepper and salt ( add all of the herbs at this point if you are using dry herbs if you are using fresh chopped herbs they will go in towards the end of the cook. Now add the butter and return to the heat. Toss for a moment and add the white wine. Let the alcohol cook off for another few seconds then add the can tomatoes and tomato paste.

Stirring constantly it will be kind of thick.  At this point your crab stock should be ready, add this to the sauce and continue stirring until well blended, it should be on the thinner side.

In the other pot fill it with salted water and cook a pound or two of spaghetti until it is 'aldente' (a little bit firm).

As the pasta is cooking put the crabs into the sauce and simmer them for 5 to 10 mins. Also empty in the can of jumbo lump if you are using it. Add the chopped fresh herbs at this point too. Very carefully stir a little being sure not to brake up the crabs or the lovely lumps of crab meat.

When the sauce is ready remove the crabs to another pot and set them aside. Put the drained aldente pasta into the sauce and gently toss. With a pair of tongs or pasta fork plate the sauced pasta. Place the crabs on the plate with the pasta and ladle the marinara sauce on top. Garnish with a little fresh basil and serve.

This dish will satisfy I guaranty it. Make it for guests and they will talk about it for years to come.

There are not too many things in life better than Spaghetti and Crabs.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


                                                         Peach Cobbler

Cobbler is a fast easy desert that is simply awesome. It always makes the family and guests just swoon. Its made several different ways but this way is easy and tastes the best in my opinion. It is a crumble top cobbler 


  • Fruit (Apples, pears, peaches even bananas all make great cobbler experiment to find the one you like most) 
  • Unbleached flour
  • Brown sugar
  • Unsalted butter (Room temp)
  • Dash of salt. 
PROCEDURE: The amounts of the dry ingredients vary depending on how much fruit you are using. The more crumble topping the better cause people just love it. The formula is one equal part each flour, butter and brown sugar to start. With your fingers pinch and blend the butter into the flour till it beads and is completely incorporated. If it is too wet continue to add flour a little at a time until it forms like bread crumbs or even lumps the size of peas. Then add the brown sugar and salt,  pinch and blend again until it is all mixed together.

Slice the fruit into an oiled baking dish of the appropriate size. Spread the crumble topping over the top of the sliced fruit loosely, dont pack it down.

Preheat the oven to 400 and bake the cobbler for 15 mins. then lower to 325 for 45 mins.

Ill edit in some procedure pics tomorrow. I'm gonna make some apple cobbler.


Friday, November 25, 2011


Langos (lan-gosh) is another ubiquitous Hungarian treat. It is very popular in markets and with street venders all over Hungary. You can find it all over Eastern Europe too. It is made with a yeast leaven dough of flour and water, left to rise, then it is rolled out and deep fried. The dough is also made with flour and potatoes. This is called Krumplis lángos (croom-plee lan-gosh). Which is how we usually make it at home and that is what is pictured above.Typically they are topped with raw garlic, sour cream and a type of quark cheese. They are also often topped to be sweet with confectioners sugar, jam, even chocolate.

To make Krumplis langos you need a medium sized frying pan or one to accommodate the size langos you are going to make. You can make them small or you can make them big.

INGREDIENTS: for six or eight loaves.

  • 2 medium sized potatoes
  • 3 cups of unbleached flour
  • 1 table spoon bread yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • warm water or milk
  • fresh garlic
  • sour cream
  • grated Parmesan cheese , Gouda or some other similar cheese
Start by putting the yeast into a cup of warm water with a teaspoon of sugar. Peel cut and boil the potatoes until they are soft. Put them in a bowl with a pat of butter and mash them until they are smooth. Put all of the other ingredients into a mixing bowl including the yeast and mashed potatoes and mix well until a tacky dough forms. It should stick to your fingers a little bit. If it is too dry add some more liquid, if it is too wet add a little more flour. Now cover the dough with a warm damp cloth and let it rest in order to rise for at least an hour.

After the dough has risen put a frying pan over med high heat. Pour in about 3/4" deep of vegetable oil. Bring the oil to 300 degrees and adjust the burner to maintain.

Then flour a section of the counter for rolling out the langos. Make balls about twice the size of a golf ball for medium sized.  Roll them out to about 1/8" thick and flour them well so they do not stick together. Stack them near the pan for frying.


After all of the dough has been rolled and the oil is ready carefully lay them into the oil and fry them until golden brown on both sides. They should bubble up and blister. This is the sign of a good langos.

Fry all of the Langos and stack them into a cullender over a plate to drain.

While they are still warm put garlic cloves into a garlic press and squeeze gently. As the mashed garlic comes out rub the press onto the langos. Put on as much or as little garlic as you desire. Put on a dollop of sour cream and with the back side of a spoon spread it around, then top with grated cheese. 

Viola, langos!

Tasty and fun to make. Especially if you have a helper.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Goulash is one of those iconic Eastern European Dishes. It was invented in Hungary but it is popular all over Europe and the world. It is made many different ways. But there is only one authentic version of goulash and it is Hungarian. I actually learned how to make this dish while visiting Hungary.

The first goulash appeared 300 or more years ago when the Hungarian Horsemen would set out on The Great Hungarian Plain or Alföld as it is called in Hungarian. They would travel for days, or even weeks at a time on horseback and this created a need for preserving food for the trip. One of the things they would do is roll chunks of beef in salt and paprika and dry it in the sun. When out on the plain they would store it packed into their saddle bags.

At dinner time they would cook the beef cubes in a kettle of water over a fire which would reconstitute the beef cubes as it cooked. Onions ,potatoes and carrots etc. would often be added.  They call it Gulyas Leves  (Goulash Soup) or Bogracs Gulyas (Kettle Goulash)

Goulash can be made with any beef stock and cut of beef but what works best is ox tails and shin meat. A rich beef stock is made with the ox tails, onions and herbs and spices. It is rich in paprika which gives it a deep red color.

To make goulash you need a large heavy stock pot and a lid.


  • 2lbs ox tails (or beef bones)
  • 3lbs beef shin or heel meat. (or any cubed beef will substitute)
  • 2-3 large onions diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2-3 carrots sliced (optional)
  • 3-4 large potatoes (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 2 tablespoons dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 4-8 tablespoons paprika (You can never put too much paprika in goulash IMO.)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste (Always use kosher or sea salt)
  • Water to cover
  • Parsley and or green onions to garnish.

    PREPARATION: Start by chopping the onions to half inch squares and cutting your meat to 1-1/2" cubes and set aside. Cut any other vegetables, garlic and set aside.

    COOKING: Get a large enough stock pot hot over medium high heat. When it is hot add a couple of table spoons of veg oil ( or lard) and throw in the meat cubes a few at a time so that they dont cool down the pot to much. Brown them a on all sides while you sprinkle them with a little salt. Remove them to a bowl and set aside. Keep doing that until all of the beef cubes are browned.

    Before the pot cools down add a little more oil as needed. Throw in the dry herbs and spices including the paprika. Give it a quick toss around with a spoon and then add the onions. If it seems to dry or burning add a little oil. The dark browning caramelizing action here is what makes the deep roasted flavor that is associated with good goulash. Add more oil a little at a time if needed.  Put in the ox tails toss them around a little bit and then pour in enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil then turn it down to a simmer and cover. Simmer for about an hour until the meat on the ox tails begins to get soft.

    Add the beef cubes and vegetables at this point. If you are adding carrots and potatoes add the carrots now but wait to add the potatoes until the last twenty minuets of the cook. This is because the potatoes will over cook and turn to mush. Simmer covered  until the meat is tender, this could take another hour or so.

    SERVING: When the goulash is done it will be goulash leves (pronounced le vesh) Its brothy and fantastic in a bowl topped with a dollop of sour cream served alongside a slice of hearty rye bread.

     It is also served as a stew plated instead of in a bowl. To achieve this consistency make a butter and flour roux. Melt a couple of table spoons of butter in a little pot over med low heat and add a couple of tablespoons of flour. Toss the flour in the melted butter a bit. Don't let it turn dark brown and add a little more butter or flour if necessary. Add the roux to the simmering stew gradually a little at a time and wait to see how thick it gets. When it reaches the desired thick sauce consistency it is ready to go.

    Shown here it is served alongside CZ dumplings as we call them. Basically they are steamed bread dough. They are very filling.

    So now is your big chance, get out the goo and and get down with some goulash!

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011


    Fall is all about Eastern European food in our house. It starts when we pack the crock with cabbage to make ready our holiday sauerkraut. It is warming comfort food that just screams cold weather. It goes on right up until Christmas when we make the traditional Slovakian feast of Vianoce.

     You just cant celebrate Eastern European fare without delving into the perogi. They are delicious pockets of dough stuffed with all sorts of tasty fillings. Most common is the potato perogi. One might think that the combination of dough and potatoes is too much but it just works so well in this magical dumpling. They are hearty and filling harkening a simpler time and place. No doubt like many hearty peasant foods they were devised when there was very little to eat.  Winter was setting in and food had to be rationed. Potatoes, cabbage and flour., if you were lucky there may be some eggs in the barn and some smoked meat in the attic. To avoid eating the same thing over and over the same way, it was during these times that the best dishes in the world were invented. When we have very little we get creative, when we have too much we get lazy and boring. It was here that the perogi was born. 

    When making homemade perogi it is fun to get the whole family involved, though it is not terribly difficult to make them on your own. Start out by making the dough. It is an unleavened pasta dough. Though thicker and lighter in body then the pasta dough used in Italian cooking.

    Before we start lets talk about mixing dough. Mixing dough by hand takes a little time but it is in my opinion fun. I find it meditative and it is relaxing to me.  However time does not always allow for it. I still mix dough by hand but it is for Indian breads like chappity, paranthas and what not. Those doughs mix easily by hand.. Peogi dough; as with many bread doughs can be strenuous to mix by hand. That is why I bought a Kitchen Aid mixer. I love it and use it a lot, If you are serious about cooking and you want to take it to the next level get a Kitchen Aid, it is the best mixer for the money.  

    Most people make a LOT of perogi at a time. Then they freeze them or give them away. I guess this is because they presumably take a long time to make. Me and my mixer can bust them out pretty quick. Following are the ingredients for a batch of about twelve medium sized perogi or about twenty small ones etc. Large perogi are good too.

    For the dough:
    • 2 cups unbleached flour
    • 2 eggs beaten (room temperature)
    • 3 tablespoons of sour cream (room temperature)
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/3 cup hot water from boiled potatoes. (This is one of those "little tricks" and it makes for nice tender dough)
    For the filling:
    • 6-8 large potatoes. (Dont choose baking potatoes, any boiling potato will work, red, yellow, etc)
    • 2 cups chopped onion
    • 4 cloves of garlic minced
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds (Optional)
    • 1 teaspoon celery seeds (Optional)
    • 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
    • salt and pepper

    GETTING STARTED: Start peeling the potatoes, cut them in smaller cubes and set them aside. Start a pot of water boiling over high heat. Then get a saute pan hot over med high heat. Put the butter into the pan and then throw in about a cup of the diced onions and the chopped garlic. Then throw in the herbs and spices, brown these a little and then set the pan aside to cool. By this time the water should be ready for the potatoes. Drop them in and cook them as you would for mashed potatoes. When the potatoes are done strain them but retain a cup full of the hot starchy water.

    MAKING THE DOUGH: Put all of the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl and turn it on low, add the beaten eggs and the sour cream. At this point a dry dough should be clumping up. Now gradually add a little of the hot starchy potato water at a time. (If it so happens that it cooled down get it hot in the microwave or something.) Keep adding the water till the dough forms nicely. It should be on the wetter side but it should not be sticky to your fingers. Form a ball with the dough and cover it with a damp cloth for a 20 min rest. 

    MAKING THE FILLING: Take the pot of strained potatoes and make sure they are cool enough to add egg without it cooking, dump in the sauteed onion mixture add an egg and then mash everything together until mixed.

    STUFFING THE PEROGI: Get a good size space laid out on a cleaned table or counter. Set out your bowl of filling, the dough ball, a rolling pin and a small bowl of water for your fingers. Start a large pot of boiling salted water over high heat for cooking them as they are assembled. Have a cullender in a pot for straining the cooked perogi .

    Flour the rolling area and the pin. Form the dough into balls about one and one half the size of a golf ball for medium sized perogi. Roll them out to about 3 or 4 inches in diameter then put a dollop of filling on the center. Dip your finger into water and rub it gently around the outer circumference of the dough pocket.

    Fold the dough over the top. Its OK if you have to stretch out the dough to make it fit over the filling but be careful not to get the filling on the area where it will close the seam. If it does the perogi will open when it is cooked. Now give it a good pinch around the joint until it is all sealed up. You can go over the top of the joint with a fork to add a decorative edge and ensure the sealing or do like I do and twist and pinch along the joint.

    COOKING THE PEROGI: As the perogi are assembled start putting them in the boiling water three or four at a time. Do this by first putting them onto a spoon and lowering them into the water. Hold them for several seconds and then release. Do this with every perogi, the reason for this is that if you just drop them in they will sink fast and then stick on the bottom. When they float then they are ready to move to the strainer. Each time you put them in the strainer sprinkle them with a little veg oil. This will keep them from sticking together. When they are all cooked set the cullender aside.

    SERVING THE PEROGI: Over med high heat melt a few pats of butter, pork lard or veg oil in a saute pan big enough to fit the perogi. When the onions begin to turn light translucent add the perogi and brown them a little with the onions. Turn them over gently making sure not to brake them open . Add more oil or butter if need be.
    After the onions are browned a little turn them out onto the plate and top them with a dollop of sour cream. 

    Perogi are one of my favorites, There are all different kinds, filled with meat, mushrooms, sauerkraut to list a few.


    Monday, November 21, 2011


    No its not what you think. But its fast, delicious and extra convenient if you have the munchies. Pot smoking is a method of stove top smoking. There are a few types of "stove top smokers" out there but I am from the school of thought that less is more. A lot of kitchen pots and appliances are not really necessary. For example I don't have a steamer because I use a big stock pot and a cullender. I dont need more stuff taking up room in my kitchen so I use a pot when I am pot smokin. Its a great method of cooking and or infusing some smoke flavor into food. It works especially well with seafood like fish or scallops. Pot smoked scallops are unbelievably delicious!

    Its pretty easy to set up, the equipment you will need is as follows:

    • A large stainless steel pot with a good fitting lid. (dont use aluminum, enameled or non stick cookware as these may burn.)
    • One of those spreading steamer baskets or a cullender that will fit inside the pot. 
    • A pie pan that will fit inside the pot.
    • A few tablespoons of hardwood saw dust like oak, hickory, apple etc.

    You can buy sawdust from places that sell smoking wood. Home depot and Loews don't carry it though. Its in gourmet cooking shops under different names. You can buy one of these or you can just saw some oak branches or apple branches over a pan to catch some saw dust. It stores well in a glass jar or plastic container

                              Here we are smoking some stripped bass fillets. Extra good stuff!!!

    Take the fish fillets and rub them with some salt and pepper and perhaps some other spices. I keep it simple and add only salt pepper and a small amount of Old Bay.

    Put the pot on the burner over high heat. Set the fish fillets onto the steamer basket and set aside. Put a few tables spoons of the saw dust onto the center of the pot.

    Then put the metal pie pan on top of the saw dust. This is some maple wood dust that I made sawing up some branches. Put the lid on the pot and wait a few moments. When you see the pot start to release small wisps of smoke from around the lid turn the burner down to medium low. Remove the lid and put the steamer basket of fish into the pot on top of the pie pan. The pie pan serves a drip catcher because the dripping juices will burn and perhaps give the fish a burnt flavor.

    Put the lid back on quickly and the pot will fill up with smoke. Keep an eye on it. If too much smoke begins to escape turn the heat down. If no smoke is escaping turn the heat up a little. Smoke should be escaping slightly like in the picture above. The house never gets "smokey", left behind is what I would call an agreeable smell of wood fire. No more then a fire place may leave behind. The reason is that you are burning very little wood and you are smoldering it slowly.

    After about twenty minutes or so depending on how thick your fish fillets are, they will be done to perfection. Like something from a five star restaurant. People WILL think that you slaved over the smoker for hours preparing the fish.

    Pot smokin' works great, it is really fast and very agreeable. clean up is a snap too.

                                                                            Before Clean up.

                                                                              After clean up.

    So you don't have an excuses with this one. If you like smoked fish give it a try, get some nice fresh fish and smoke it up!